Sunday, November 13, 2011

So I finally got to play "High Frontier" on Saturday. I persuaded Nick Simon and Iain to come over to Wood Green for a Big Games Day, and spent weeks preparing for the big day by studying the rules over and over.

It was a partial success I would say. It took an awful long time - 6.5 to 7 hours I would guess altogether. I was the only one who had read the rules, so the first few hours I had to answer a LOT of rules questions for every turn. I felt like I was planning everyone's missions at one point! It's not that it's a complicated game - every one of us has mastered more complicated games - but it's unfamiliar, so not much in the way of conceptual landmarks.

Having said that - I loved it! Such a fascinating game, the time just flew by for me. I did very poorly, possibly because I was so busy answering rules questions that I didn't have time to think very clearly about what I was doing. Towards the end I did make some good progress claiming asteroids with a 4.1/3 thruster and a raygun, but too late to get back into the running.

Simon and Nick both seemed to enjoy it too, both expressing a willingness to play again. But Iain, having enjoyed the first few hours, seemed to lose the will to live a few times when he was trying to figure out how to organise his next mission. He won by a good margin (lots of glory points), but his final verdict on the game was "overwrought", "a prog-rock game"! So I don't anticipate persuading Iain to play it again any time soon.

So, this is a fantastic game, but not for everyone. And I'm sure it can be played a lot quicker than we managed by even slightly experienced players. A serious contender for my top 10 list.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Civ

I'm spending Christmas with Sue's family in a luxury barn conversion buried in the snowy Herefordshire countryside. Even better, I've been playing Civilization with Sue's 12-year-old nephew Tom. We're using my old Gibson's edition, where the playing area for 2 players (Greece and Asia Minor) is helpfully colour-coded. The 2-player game is surprisingly challenging. Space is in short supply so Tom and I have been clashing for room regularly. We had an easy ride to start with, but then the calamities started coming thick and fast, and we are just emerging from a chaotic dark age of civil war, eruptions, epidemics and revolts. Love this game, still my number one.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Peaceniks at war

Another game of Struggle of Empires last night with the Mennonite boys. Just the three of us, and we were a little worried about the odd-man-out possibilities, but it seemed to work fine, and no-one felt their chances were closed down early in the game. Still, it doesn't matter how many times I play this game, I don't seem to be able to get the hang of how to win. One of my favourite tricks was much in evidence last night - buying a nice tile (such as Reserves) and then forgetting to use it at the critical moemnt. That re-roll could have spared me a lot of pain!

Darren was so inspired by the game that he resolved to buy it immediately, regardless of the OTT prices being achieved on eBay these days.

We finished with a round of Race for the Galaxy, where I managed to scrape a last-turn win against Sam's Spartan war-machine. Very satisfying.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Caucasus Campaign

I've been going quite slow on the game acquisition front - still money left in the 2010 budget - but I recently bought Caucasus Campaign (Mark Simonovitch, GMT) after reading very positive comments from Chris Farrell. Maybe I give too much weight to Chris's opinions sometimes, but I'm very pleased I followed his recommendation on this one.

I'm becoming a bit of a sucker for East Front panzer-pushers, accumulating a small stack of them on the shelf (Roads to Leningrad, Stalingrad Pocket, Von Manstein's Backhand Blow), but this one looks at first sight a little bit special. A beautiful map with large hexes, a small number of large attractive counters, 16 pages of clearly laid out rules printed in colour, and colourful and clear player-aids, all combine to make a very appealing first impression.

It's all laid out on the table awaiting my first solo play-through. Looking forward to it.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The month of gaming

I am having the most amazing month of gaming! And it's all a bit of a misunderstanding.

Months ago Sue booked up for a mediation course, which meant she would be away from home all weekend every weekend in September. So like any gaming husband would, I got my diary out and started booking the gaming sessions. Huzzah!

Then her course was cancelled.

But Sue is lovely, and so the gaming sessions still stand. And I'm getting convention-scale amounts of gaming done.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sunday part 2

It was probably a mistake to follow Maria with another "big beast" like After the Flood. It didn't help that I did not do a great job of explaining the rules, and everyone's brains were a little fried by this stage, I suspect. And to be honest, After the Flood did not benefit from the comparison. After Maria it seemed - well - unpolished. A little bit fiddly, and lacking in drama perhaps.

I still rate this as a very good game indeed, probably an 8, but a game of this complexity and length needs to be the main event. Definitely not a wind-down game. (Chicago Express or Nexus Ops might have been a better choice.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

There's something about Maria

I will eschew cheap smutticisms and just say that I finally got the chance to play Maria on Sunday. I've been excited about this game for a while, bought a copy a couple of months ago, and have been itching to play ever since. Iain "the acceptable face of gaming", and his friend John agreed to try it out last weekend.

I loved it.

As Prussia/Pragmatic I played very poorly. Not really thinking about the implications of what I was doing, I hammered into Austria with the Prussians and into Northern France with the Pragmatics. Won lots of battles, but handed the game to the French. But this game is a beautiful beautiful thing. I love the subtleties of hand management interacting with the suits on the board. I love the positional play and the simple way that the flavour of 18th century siege warfare is captured. I love the look of the board and the pieces. Maria is currently well on the way to joining my exclusive 10-rated list, alongside timeless works of art like Civilization, 1830, and Tigris & Euphrates. When can we play again?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In which we plays Blackbeard, me lads.

Something else we played at Nick's last weekend was Blackbeard (GMT's new edition). Danni easily beat Nick and me, storming ahead in notoriety and booty after sacking Portobello. This is a fun game, though poor Nick spent most of the game scanning the rules for us. He was effectively a full-time GM so it's hardly surprising he came in last.

I have the 1st edition and used to play it solo quite a bit (back in my lonely bachelor days). A couple of things that struck me about the 2nd edition - first, dumping the hexes is no great loss. It always felt a bit anomalous cruising around the hex-grid with no regard for wind direction. Second, the cards are considerably simplified (and prettied up). However there's a cost - a lot of complexity is offloaded onto the huge player reference card.

Let's face it, Blackbeard is all about the chrome. In fact there's hardly a game there at all - it's all chrome. So not a satisfying collection of graceful interlocking mechanisms. More a chaotic pile of historical accidents. Like a roleplaying game, it's all about imaginative immersion.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A happy time with the Unhappy King

I had an epic game of Unhappy King Charles with Nick last weekend. I was the godly faction, and things were looking pretty bad for my foppish long-haired opponent by the end of 1643, after a series of disastrous attempts to take Bristol. But he hung on to the end, and I scraped home with 13 points. Excellent fun! 7 hours of really first-class wargaming.

This is the second time I've played UKC. The first time I felt pretty lost, and a bit grumpy too with some of the complexities of the game. This time round I pwas better prepared, and I'm beginning to see that this game is a real classic, with serious intellectual muscle under the surface. Whatever you might think of Charles Vasey's online persona, you can't deny that he has put a lot of thought into this design. I can't wait for another chance to play.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Our Island Story

Well I'm off to Cardiff today to meet Nick for a weekend of unbridled wargaming. As we are both Englishmen and wargamers, it seems highly appropriate that we plan to spend the weekend playing games about Englishmen killing each other, namely Unhappy King Charles and Richard III.

Wish me luck.